Getting it Right: The Empire Cookie

I heart empire cookies. The proper ones, iced with jam filling. Did you hear that everybody out there? ICED. Also, the cookie itself needs to be like a yummy melt-in-your-mouth shortbread.

I have had them un-iced, filled with marmalade, a dark spicy cookie, covered with sugar. These are not a true empire, they are your version of an empire.

I have always been a fan of the Sticklings Bakery empire cookie. The texture, the sweet white icing and nice jam filling have always been a real treat.

This Christmas things changed. My friend Jillian brought me a tin full of her homemade empires. I have never quite had anything like them. They are sweet little gems, with the smoothest, softest cookie. Her icing is light and creamy (it’s not thick or hard like some). They are a good size (not huge, but average cookie size) They are in fact what I think is the perfect cookie.

Recently she came over with a tray, so we made some tea and took some pictures. She made them tea-cup shaped. This reminds me of how extremely thoughtful she is.

Thanks Jillian for helping me set folks straight on what an empire cookie is.

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Oh and I will not ask her for the recipe. Ever.

Getting Your Greens (well some of us)

So I don’t have a juicer. If I want to make any type of drink that requires blending I use my food processor. I love my food processor and if I buy one more small appliance (blender/juicer) and try to fit it into this kitchen the size of a large bathroom, well lets just say, we would have to move.

I’m fascinated by those who regularly juice and drink smoothies for the health benefits. Who sneak in their greens and use magical protein powders. I’ve been doing some reading and thought that it was time to try them out myself.

I wanted to share, so I knew in my attempt to create a tasty beverage thats full of greens to feed the meatatarian I live with would be quite a challenge. He only eats carrots, mushrooms and peppers. True story. His idea of vegetables growing up was anything the Green Giant made in a can and he wouldn’t eat it. So it took him a long time to come around to CMP (yeah thats what I call it). What I do like about his changes is that he prefers organic or shopping at local farmer’s markets.

So I thought lets try kale. I love kale, sauteed on top of the stove in good olive oil with fresh garlic, in a salad, even baked as a chip. He however would not touch kale with a ten foot pole, the closest he gets is spinach hidden in lasagne (and I mean not visible).

I knew it must be sweet, over powering any taste of the good green stuff for him to even try. I forgot about the colour. So I happily whizzed together pineapple, banana, water, some coconut milk and some kale. I realized it looked similar to a shamrock shake, just with green flecks and that I may have a challenge in front of me, but I presented him with this lovely glass of goodness. There were no words. There seldom are anymore when I offer anything vegetable. Just a shake of the head. I didn’t even say anything. I just tipped it back and drank it myself, describing to him how delicious it was, and it was. After 18 years, I still occassionally try and once in a while he surprises me, but not this time.

Guess I’ll have to keep these gems to myself, that is unless you want to try……

smoothie

Green Goodness (2 servings)

1/2 cup pineapple
1 banana chopped
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/2 cup low-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup water
some ice

Throw it in the blender/food processor and blend to desired consistency.

Taking Tea

I come from a long line of tea drinkers. I used to sit in my Grandparents apartment and sip milky, sweet orange pekoe cup after cup. There was a quiet joy about those tea times with Nan and Gramp, my ten year-old self knew then they were special. My Mother swears that a cup of tea heals anything and can always make you feel better. My daughter is a loyal David’s customer.

I can’t survive my morning without coffee, tea just doesn’t cut it for me. I take my tea in late afternoon and before bed. In the afternoon I prefer a steamy cup of Earl Grey, often with some honey or if I am out I will often grab a London Fog. In the evening it’s Chamomile and depending on my mood it can be clear or again, with a little honey. Every mouthful holds a memory for me.

I also like to drink from a proper tea cup, and in the afternoon from this little gem below which I received as a gift when I was 13 from a Brownie group I volunteered with. It makes me smile.

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How do you take your tea?

The Red and White

I heart Harmony House. Harmony House is one of only two second-stage shelters in Eastern Ontario and supports women and children fleeing violence. It’s a safe-haven where they can heal from their trauma. I find it hard not to tear up when I talk about this special organization. People that know me, know that. A very wise person told me that once I connected with it, it would take hold of my heart, and it has.

That is why I am so excited about The Red and White. A wine and food event that is so much fun and raises money for this great organization.

This year The Red and White is Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 at Ashbury College, 362 Mariposa Ave. at 7pm. It is an adventure in food, wine and beer. For $60 you can taste the creations of 3 amazing Chefs, Caroline Ishii, Zen Kitchen, Katie Brown, Beckta and Charlotte Langley, Hooked (Toronto) and sample wines and brews of Eastern Ontario including:

SandBanks
Beaus
The Grange of Prince Edward
Kichesippi
Sugarbush
Hog’s Back
Rosehall Run
McAuslan
Domaine Perrault
and
Smokie Ridge

A special treat this year includes an olive oil and balsamic tasting by The Unrefined Olive. Desserts will be provided by the amazing team at Little Cakes. A live and silent auction with some fabulous prizes will be an added feature this year.

What great fun to add to your mid-week and a boost to the cold weeks of Winter! Join us!

To purchase tickets online visit EventBrite or email fundraising@harmonyhouse.com or call 613-853-3250 to talk to someone. There are corporate and group tables at this event so ask about them!!!

2012 Top 5 in the Kitchen

TLK 5 favourites this year.

1. Mrs. Ayoub’s Hummus – you can get it too! At Ayoub’s Market 322 Someset St. East and sometimes on a burger at SHLAG.

2. Regina Pizza, Boston Mass. – best pizza ever. There is a reason this place has been around since the 1920’s.

3. Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon – the easiest beef boug recipe and one of the most delicious (sorry Julia fans).

4. Jillian Blackie’s Empire Cookies – Nothing else needs to be said except they put everyone elses to shame. She should be selling them.

5. Play Food & Wine – Always and forever. Favourite this year was the bean salad, but first choice is always the beef tartare.

Rebar Chocolate Cake

This is my relationship to Rebar, introduced by a friend years ago, received as a gift, fell in love with it, worked in a bookstore for a year and sold several of them while I was there. My copy is tattered and worn and at the moment and on loan (for a little too long). It is the best cookbook I have ever owned (I know you know that by now), and it’s vegetarian (I am not).

When I use it I feel like I should honour it by using only the very best ingredients, fresh, organic and local. When we eat from it, it feels good. Wholesome, delicious food. I have never been to rebar modernfood in Victoria, but it is on my list. This is where the recipes come from and when I create a meal from this wonderful book and someone says it’s just like eating at Rebar, I love it!!!

I wanted to make something special for someone’s birthday recently and I knew exactly what it should be. Rebar’s Chocolate Cake (death by chocolate in its own right), it would give me an opportunity to try some new organic, fair trade milk chocolate I had. A chance to make ganache, which doesn’t happen too often.

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Rebar Chocolate Cake
•1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
•1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
•1/2 cup cocoa
•1 1/2 tsp baking soda
•3/4 tsp baking powder
•1/4 tsp salt
•3/4 cup strong coffee (in place of coffee increase the buttermilk by 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup of water)
•3/4 cup buttermilk
•1/3 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
•2 eggs (1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk)
•1 tsp vanilla

Cake filling
•5 oz milk chocolate
•5 oz dark chocolate
•1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
•1/4 lb cream cheese, spreadable
•1 tsp vanilla

Ganache
•1/2 cup heavy cream
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
•5 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Prepare three 8″ cake pans with oiled parchment cut to fit the bottoms of the pans. Set aside. (I used a springform and only did two layers)

Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt in the bowl of a mixer and whisk on low to combine, making sure it is lump-free. Add the coffee, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla and mix on medium-low for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides. The batter will be easy to pour.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 15 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (longer of course if only using two pans). Let the cakes cool before removing them from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Remove parchment papers before assembling.

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Prepare the cake filling. Melt the milk and dark chocolates in a double boiler and stir until smooth. Cool 10 minutes. Cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Mix the cooled chocolate into the creamed mixture. Next, prepare the ganache by heating the cream and butter to just before the scalding point. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let rest for 3 minutes, then whisk gently (to avoid incorporating air as much as possible) until melted and smooth. Cool slightly.

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To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a cooling rack with a large baking sheet underneath to catch drips. Evenly spread half of the filling over the layer, then position a second layer on top. Repeat with remaining filling, saving a small amount to thinly spread over the top. Chill 10 minutes. Next, slowly pour the warm chocolate ganache over the entire cake while carefully spreading it with a large metal icing spatula to make a smooth surface. Carefully transfer the cake onto a plate and into the fridge to set.

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If it seems like a lot of work it is, and with good quality product it is not inexpensive, but it is sooooo worth it. Every loving mouthful is divine.

Copies of this great book are sometimes hard to find. My suggestion, if you see one buy it, it will be one of the best purchases you have ever made!

Bulgogi

Our newest comfort food, from Canadian Living and their quick and easy weeknight dinner solutions.

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In a household that seems busier now in the evening than it did when we had a teenager in dance and playing sports, quick, easy and healthy is appreciated (so is homemade!).

This dish was not only delicious, but made the house smell divine. I found the marinade really convenient to throw together and plan on using it for other meats.

We served ours with brown rice (a staple in our house), but it would be delicious with basmati or rice noodles, and of course some kimchi.

You can find the recipe here.